PHD #205: Cry Against the Machine
Cry Against the Machine
Summary: Bannik runs up against the harsh reality: Even after the bombs fall, the bureaucracy still remains.
Date: 19 Sept 2041 AE
Related Logs: None.
Bannik Wilkins 
Naval Offices — Deck 10 — Battlestar Cerberus
This area is set-up much like any standard office building. Cubicles have been constructed using cheap waist-high walls, their contents left neutral for whoever needs to use them. Inside each cubicle is a desk with a laptop and chair. Simple overhead lights bring dull illumination to the room except over the back wall where each one of the colonies twelve flags hangs from its own pole. Fake, potted plants dot the room and seem to be standard issue along with the water cooler and coffee machines. Off the main room are a few private offices such as that of the JAG or CAG.
Post-Holocaust Day: #205

The Holocaust hasn't been kind to this frazzled little woman, known colloquially among the pilots as Lieutenant Sunshine for her peppy mission briefings and her incredible motor of a mouth. But sitting as she is in this vast and virtually empty space, it's hard to see from whence her reputation came. Hemmed in on three sides by a cubicle crammed full of reports, recon photos, and stacks upon stacks of as-yet-uncompleted paperwork, she looks like a little white mouse lost in a scientist's fiendish maze. Judging from her rumpled duty blues and the flecks of dandruff in her hair, she hasn't left this place in a really long time.

Some people have put the the events of the past few months behind them — and then there's Lieutenant Ashley Wilkins.

Tyr Bannik isn't one much for confrontation. He isn't one for making a scene or pushing his agenda or yelling. But this is different. This is about — well. It's about Mom. So mustering up all the courage that his eighteen-year-old Specialist self can manage, he sets off to see the Operations Officer. He has a map and a folder clutched under his arm, and clutched is the right word for it, for it's like he's hanging onto it for dear life. Getting up to that desk —

"Lieutenant Wilkins? Sir?"

Sunshine leaps up from her chair when Bannik's silhouette falls across her desk. She's got great reaction time for somebody no longer on the flight line, snapping to attention almost as quickly as a rabbit would flee from a falcon's outstretched talons — but when she sees the man (no, boy) now seeking to bend her ear, she allows herself to relax. "Sorry," she says, teeth chattering, hands clasped against the sides of her chair. "Must have zoned. Hear that humming? White noise. People say it's soothing. Too damn soothing, you ask me. You try looking at black-and-whites all day and all night with nothing but the air recirculator going and going and going and going and — " A weak little smile. "Uh." Knobby hands try vainly to smooth out a few creases in her pants. "What's up?"

"Sounds tough, sir. You ever think about joining a prayer group or something, sir? Or Scroll Study? Helps folks find some center." Bannik. Oh, Bannik. He goes right for the pastoral. But wait! Don't forget your purpose! Don't forget why you're here!

"Uh. Tyr Bannik, sir. From the Deck. I was — I was going over the scheduled reconnaissance missions for the next week?" That'd be the folder under his arm. "And I had a question or two about them." He's slowly finding his voice, trying to assert some confidence with it all.

"You're better than the last guy. Told me to skip the prayer group. Go right for the mani, the pedi, a perm, maybe. You know. Apparently I look like shit these days. Who knew." The lieutenant gives Bannik a wan little smile, and for a moment her eyes wrinkle and her irises sparkle — but she's a far cry indeed from the vivacious woman memorialized in the faded photographs still taped to her cubicle walls. There: it's her and her sister (or someone even closer), their fingers intertwined, dressed to the nines in fluffy winter jackets that match their skis. And there: a little boy staring enraptured at the camera while a grinning Wilkins puts bunny ears over his infant's blond fuzz.

But aloud: "Recon. Yeah. We've got a couple lined up. Whew. More than a couple." Wilkins laughs her nervous laugh as she taps her knuckles against a particularly large stack of handouts awaiting the CAG's signature. "You riding shotgun or something? On a Raptor? Got a particular el-zee you need intel on?"

Bannik takes a deep breath. He lets it out. Focus. Focus. "Yeah. Sort of. I was looking over the list —" He drops the folder down on the Lieutenant's desk, flipping it open. "And I saw you were headed to Terrarance to take a look, but not to Kinlochard Village just an hour or so south of there." Kin-what? It's doubtful that it's even on Wilkins' map. It's just a couple of buildings in a 'town center' and a ton of farms outside of it. But then again, why would Wilkins know it? It's not on the Eleven's list.

Steady. Steady. "Yeah. I know that. But — I know the area here. I know the kind of people that these are. Dispersed. Hardened. They'd be the kinds that could head into cellars and have the supplies to really make it. Sure, they're spread out, but that's why they'd be so damn tenacious, you know?" Bannik begins at step one: He tries reasoning with her. But still, there is an edge in his voice. There's more than he's letting on.

"But. But." Bannik begins to sputter. He puts down his map he's got with him on the table, already flipped over towards the area he's talking about. "It's only a tenth of a tank of fuel to divert over here when you're doing the Terrarance run." See? He's even circled Kinlochard for her. Not that it's actually marked on the map he has. "Just — and I work twelve hour shifts down on the Deck, and I pray with the folks who need praying with — and — I do /everything/ that people /ever/ ask of me, and all I'm asking for is just a /tenth/ of a tank of fuel to look for my girl and my Mom and my friends and —" Now it comes out. Bannik sounds like he's almost ready to cry.

For a moment, Sunshine looks like she's about to swoop in and share a good, cathartic hug — but she hesitates, and in that hesitation remembers that she's part of that monstrous bureaucratic organism called the Colonial Navy, and though the world has ended she still has a role to fill. And so it's by rote that she repeats her answer to an appeal she's heard so many times since the Cylons abandoned the outer Colonies of Star System Cyrannus: "Everybody's been working hard. Casualties. You know." Her open expression is pained — pleading for some understanding. "Let's say we give a tenth a tank of fuel to everybody in the Fleet to look for their folks and — " Wilkins' laugh is dark, almost bitter. "I guess that'd be twenty tanks, at this rate, so. Dumb point. But — still." She shifts uncomfortably in her chair, crossing and uncrossing her legs as she glances at the photographs taped nearby. It's an unconscious movement of her eye, nothing more, but she's no longer looking at Bannik, that's for sure.

There's a long pause. Bannik blinks his eyes, clearing away the tears, trying to find his voice again. "Yeah. I guess so." A long pause. "I'm sorry, sir. I'll pray for you. It's got to be real hard up here. I'm sorry." He clears his throat and picks up his map and his folder. "Sorry for taking your time. Bet you're real busy."

And then he turns and leaves just as abruptly as he came. But in the next day, the most amazing thing happens. Bannik was doing the post-flight load-off of data following a raptor recon run. And who would have figured what happened? The Raptor was doing a fly-by of the region and just the faintest of pings was picked up in the area of this place, the village of Kinlochard. No one had heard of it — they needed a more detailed map to just find its name — but the readings are there, faint as anything. And so Kinlochard goes up on the board.

And maybe sometime later, Lieutenant Ashley "Sunshine" Wilkins will remember the kid that came to her office talking about a tenth of a fuel tank.

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